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NY utility agrees to $1.5M penalty for Isaias storm response

New York regulators on Jan. 21 adopted a settlement under which New York State Electric & Gas Corp. will pay a $1.5 million penalty over its response to Tropical Storm Isaias in August 2020.

The storm knocked out electric service to about 1 million customers in New York, including 183,000 NYSEG customers, for up to six days and caused widespread outages in Connecticut and New Jersey.

In a separate action Jan. 21, the New York Public Service Commission followed up on November 2020 orders and began a process to hold evidentiary hearings over the responses to Isaias by Consolidated Edison Inc. subsidiaries Consolidated Edison Co. of New York Inc. and Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc. and by Fortis Inc. subsidiary Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. In the November orders, the PSC said the two Con Edison utilities faced penalties of up to $121.3 million and Central Hudson faced penalties of up to $16 million for apparent violations of their storm preparation and response plans. A commission administrative law judge will oversee a hearing for each utility.

NYSEG, an Avangrid Inc. subsidiary, admitted in the settlement to three violations of its emergency response plan, while the PSC acknowledged that NYSEG had improved its storm response compared to two winter storms in early 2018. The financial penalty — the maximum allowed under current regulations but an amount that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a PSC-issued news release called "a drop in the bucket" — must be paid out of shareholder funds.

Cuomo repeated his pledge to introduce legislation as part of his state budget to lift the limit on penalties and make it easier to revoke a utility's franchise over emergency response failures.